‘That Face’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by March 20, 2017

‘That Face’ is a stunningly realistic, domestic drama with touches of comedy. This play has been described as ‘a remarkable and unforgettable piece of theatre’. It was the first play to be written by UK playwright, Polly Stenham when she was only 19. She is still only 30 but has already won numerous awards. Polly has used a similar style to Albee in ‘Virginia Woolf’.

As you may guess, the play has chunks of autobiographical content throughout. Polly went to boarding school in Rugby, her parents were divorced, and her father was a businessman. He was Chairman of several theatre organisations, but sadly died before this play was staged.

This magnificent script, with a tremendous, rich depth to the characters, is being presented at the Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, Innaloo until Saturday 1st April at 8.00 pm. There are matinées on the 19th and 26th March at 2.00 pm.

 

The sets employ black drapes for the walls, but have an abundance of quality props that give a genuine appearance to the scenes. There are several scene changes, some quite complicated, but under the supervision of the capable Stage Manager, Dave Wall and his well-focused, stage crew of Ian Wilson, Melissa Skeffington and Anne-Marie Bloor, they carried out the changes smoothly and without too much delay.

The clever lighting design (John Woolrych) again helped each scene to be different to the others. The lighting operator (Jane Sherwood) and sound operator (Daniel Toomath) were cue perfect. The sound effects appeared very real and not straight from a disc.

 

      The scene is the dormitory of an English boarding school, where a poor new girl, Alice (Poppy Bloor), dressed in her nightie, has been tied to a chair with a bag over her head. An older girl, Izzy (Hannah Anderson) – who has a real sick streak – is bullying her, whilst ordering another girl, Mia (Juliett Greenock) to mentally torture Alice. Alice passes out, and the senior girls are now in deep trouble.

      We next see Mia arriving at a flat in London, where she finds her mother, Martha (Yvette Wall) high on drugs and soused in alcohol. At the foot of the mother’s bed, in a foetal position, is a 17-year-old schoolboy, Henry (Paddy McAuley) whom Martha calls her ‘little soldier’ and he calls her ‘Mummy’ in return. Mia is horrified at what may have been taking place.

      Mia tells her Mum that her father, Hugh (Peter Neaves), who now lives in Hong Kong, has to come back to the UK in order to sort out her school ‘incident’. However, Martha is so self-centred and high on substances, that little seems to sink in.

     Can there be any hope for poor Mia and her mixed up parents?

 

Award winning director, Sharon Greenock, has produced a masterpiece. This is the type of play that could have been an absolute disaster in the wrong hands. Throughout the play, this amazing cast skilfully, and slowly, released various facets of their nature, attitudes and characters. This gives a wonderful richness to the tale, and held the audience – often in disbelief.

This whole production could have been over sentimentalised, or even worse, hammed up; but the cast completely understood their characters, giving poignant, subtle performances.

Yvette is extremely well known for her quality plays, but I think this is the first major acting part that I have seen her tackle. She was magnificent, capturing the inner torture of this pathetic woman. A solid troupe of supporting actors backed Yvette. Great team work. Everyone gave it their ultimate effort.

Audiences regularly ask for something different, well here it is, something SPECIAL, presented to you with admirable quality.